Renewed Emphasis on Sustainability to Meet Global Climate Goals

The focus of meeting the global environmental challenges shifts from crafting grand plans to combat climate change to actions based on sustainability.  A showcase for sustainable action will be the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics in London, which bills itself as the “greenest Games in history”, with various goals that include higher energy efficiency, resource conservation and the use of renewable energy. Read more

By Environmental Leader (11 June 2012):

The 2012 Summer Olympics in London will reuse 90 percent of demolition waste, send zero waste to the landfill and its venues will use 30 to 40 percent less drinkable water than standard, making London the “greenest Games in history,” according to a report by Jones Lang LaSalle.

London has partnered with World Wildlife Fund and BioRegional to create One Planet Olympics, a program that addresses energy carbon, water, waste reduction, biodiversity and public health, the report says.

The plan’s goals include:

•             Developing a decentralized energy network using combined heat and power technology, which would save up to 30 percent when compared to standard national grid-supplied electricity and individual housing unit heating.

•             Using renewable sources for 20 percent of energy needs, although Jones Lang LaSalle says this target is in jeopardy because an on-site 2-MW wind turbine was scrapped for safety reasons. The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 reduced its renewable energy forecast to 11 percent for the Games. However, organizers report that through other measures such as renting instead of buying many infrastructure components and cutting 969,000 square feet from venue spaces, overall carbon emission forecasts are about 315,000 metric tons — 20 percent less than an estimate of two years ago.

•             Installing a dual water system in new buildings with separate supplies of drinking and recycled water.

•             Cleaning up all contaminated soil on site, using five soil washing machines and a bioremediation plant that will clean 1.3 million tons of soil by the time they are finished, instead of landfilling contaminated soil.

•             Making food packaging that cannot be reused or recycled from compostable materials such as starch and cellulose-based bioplastics.

•             Designating 45 hectares of wildlife wetland habitat and 675 bird nesting boxes in Olympic Park, ensuring that otters, swans, bats and scores of other wildlife will occupy the same area as athletes and spectators. In addition, the Games will remediate invasive Japanese knotweed has enabled more diverse native species to proliferate.

Titled “Olympian steps for sustainability,” the Jones Lang LaSalle report says that an environmental focus at Olympic sites extends at least as far back as 1994, when the International Olympic Committee added “Environment” to “Sport” and “Culture” as a guiding principle.

The financial and professional services firm is advising the London Olympics, although it says much of its work remains confidential. Jones Land LaSalle also worked with the Chinese government on sustainability initiatives for Beijing’s 2008 Games.

This spring, BMW unveiled its London 2012 Olympic fleet of more than 3,000 low-emission, diesel, hybrid and electric cars, motorcycles and bicycles and McDonald’s announced that it will serve chicken exclusively from U.K. farmers at the London Olympics, following pressure from farming and environmental groups.

Last year, Coca-Cola promised to recycle all clear plastic PET bottles used at the London Games.



By Margaret Ryan for AOL (12 June 2012):

Forget “climate change” and grand master plans. Focus on “sustainability” and accountability.

Twenty years after world leaders met for the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the global plans envisioned to limit human damage to the environment have not materialized, but sustainability initiatives are making a difference, experts told Environmental Law Institute (ELI) teleconference this week.

That’s putting “sustainability” front and center in the next two weeks as leaders, and tens of thousands of activists, once again gather in Rio for “Rio + 20,” a follow-up to the 1992 conference that formed the foundation for global environmental action including biodiversity and climate change treaties.

The partisan political schism in the US over climate change is primarily focused on environmental regulation, said John Dernbach, Co-Director of the Widener University School of Law’s Environmental Law Center.

Sustainability avoids that divide because it is explicitly about making job growth, economic development, and the environment all work together for a “higher quality of life,’ he said.

Sustainability “is primarily bottom-up,” led by popular and customer demand for more environmentally viable ways for doing things, said Dernbach.

It includes initiatives like “green buildings” and sustainable products and business supply chains. Over the last 20 years, organizations and businesses have grown that help businesses go green and certify that products meet standards, Dernbach said. Governments have made a difference with appliance and auto efficiency standards.

Grassroots, Bottom-up Instead of Top-down

But the net for the US has been “modest progress,” he said, because at the same time the US carbon footprint has grown.

One focus at Rio + 20 will be aggregating all the sustainability commitments, public and private, on an internet site so people can hold those responsible accountable for following through, said Jacob Scherr, Director of Global Strategy and Advocacy, Natural Resources Defense Council.

The first Rio meeting envisioned “top-down” master plans to tackle environmental ills, with major transfers of money from industrialized to developing nations, said Scherr. But that proved unrealistic, he said, and the key now is shorter term measures but holding leaders accountable for following through on them.

“I think we will see hundreds of millions of dollars in new commitments” involving energy and low-carbon activities coming out of Rio + 20, he said.

NRDC is working on a site called Cloud of Commitments, he said.

Carl Bruch, co-director of international programs at ELI, said the first Rio conference occurred at the end of the Cold War and amid a worldwide sense of hope and cooperation. Rio + 20 will try to regain that sense of vision and optimism, he said.

“We have to have a new structure if we’re going to make progress” to a low-carbon economy, said Scherr, and it has to be more than government. Walmart, he noted, has a bigger climate footprint than half the world’s countries, and the Gates Foundation spends more on health care annually than the World Health Organization.

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